Australian couple saves French chateau
Restoring a dilapidated French chateau is not for the faint of heart, but for Francophone Australians Tim Holding and Felicity Selkirk, it was the gateway to a life-changing adventure.
We love France and our apartment in Paris proved to be the perfect base for exploring this exceptional country. With our passion for French architecture, art and interior design, we dreamed up a bold project that would occupy the next stage of our lives together. France has more than 40,000 palaces, the vast majority of which are privately owned. Many of them are in danger – victims of complex French inheritance laws and the cost of protecting and restoring their stunning beauty.
We examined 15 diverse and fascinating properties before our agent Guillaume Denniel suggested Château de Purnon. When we first signed up for Bournon in Haute-Poitou, south of the Loire Valley, we knew we were in for a huge challenge. Its massive roof needed complete restoration. Water seepage from a leaking roof damaged much of the second floor and floor Tofio The stone was slowly crumbling. The vast area, measuring more than 20 hectares, has grown rapidly after decades of neglect.
But Bernon is an uncut gem. One of the most extraordinary palaces in our region, it stands majestically above the Scévolles Forest with a stunning 3km-long grand alley stretching towards the horizon. It’s a view that takes your breath away.
Back to Life
The Château de Bournon was completed in 1788, just before the Revolution. Its owner fled during the ensuing chaos, and when he returned in 1797, he found his house miraculously spared. It was changed again in 1893. When we bought Purnon in 2020, it had remained largely unchanged since its inception.
The entire palace and surrounding buildings Season or registered With historical monuments. This National Heritage Protection System means that we must work on its restoration with a registered heritage engineer. Choosing an architect to lead the project was the most important decision we made. Frederic Didier – Chief Architect i At Versailles – we brought experience and enthusiasm to lead our project.
Restoration work must be carried out by experienced traditional craftsmen legacy protection. None of this is cheap! But with the support of the French government (the Ministry of Culture), we are slowly bringing Bournon back to life. The first phase of works will restore its exceptional roof, original framing, stonework on the facades and much of the wood around the shutters and windows.
We have protected some of its original furnishings, which had been hidden in the attic for over a century. using the palace In the archives, our architect discovered old floor plans and even information about the provenance of the materials used in the construction of Pernon.
Vaults that had remained unopened for decades revealed a few things the palaceOriginal fabrics. The hidden graffiti revealed the names and dates of those who worked on its construction. Through photographs, family photos and local people’s stories, we began to document the lives of the people who have lived here for more than two centuries.
Although required to use suitably qualified legacy Craftsmen, there is still a lot of work we can do ourselves inside and outside the world the palace. Every day we discover new things about our home – hidden wells, water tanks, stone gutters and even stone statues of French kings that once adorned the house. the palaceroof.
Our project has also connected us to others the palace The owners are in our area and we have gained insights from their many experiences.
We carefully documented our trip on social media, generating more photos and stories from our many followers. It also allowed family and friends in Australia to share our trip during coronavirus travel restrictions. Our network of supporters is slowly growing and we have held several volunteer days to help with the enormous work of clearing the estate grounds.
Over the past two years we have opened the palace Portals for the public Heritage days. To our surprise and delight, every year more than 1,000 people come to have a quick look at Bornon before starting our main business.
Although Bornon will be our home, we plan to use its lands the palace To host weddings and other events. The revenue we generate will help fund future phases of the renovation work. Our journey so far has been amazing, full of exhausting and inspiring work.
We know we are part of an endeavor that will leave a legacy long after we are gone. As we walk around Bornon, we admire the magnificent trees planted by people who will never live to sit in their shade. We are thankful that visionaries had the generosity to build something for those who come after them. We hope that by protecting something precious from the past, we can also leave something for future generations.
Follow the story of the palace’s renovation or donate to the restoration fund at chateaupurnon.com
From French real estate news magazine
Experience Tim and Felicity’s passion and dedication to saving Château de Purnon during our live event. Discover the challenges they faced, the victories they celebrated, and the ongoing restoration efforts that are breathing new life into the historic Palace of Louis XVI. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to be a part of history in the making.
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